How to Make Your Martial Arts Work on the Street

You may train in a martial art, but will your techniques really work in the street, in real life, against a real attacker?

This is a question a lot of martial artists wrestle with…


No matter what martial art you are learning, there are countless techniques you will be trying to master and then combine to serve various purposes. It can be overwhelming, and even once you feel you know a particular move or technique, there is still the question of whether you can apply it effectively in a real self defense situation.

Fortunately there’s a way of organizing your training and making your techniques more functional in real life.

It’s a 5 step process, and you can take almost any technique, move through these five levels, and go from the beginning stages to street-effective mastery.



Level 1: Solo Training.

This is what you do when you begin to learn a new technique. Your goal is to learn the posture and movement required. It may be a kata, or shadow boxing, or solo stick drills – depending on what you are learning.

The point is, you are doing it by yourself, and repeating it many times until the movement begins to feel natural and you can do it correctly. The emphasis is on improving your body mechanics and engraining the move in your muscle memory.

This is a necessary step, but by no means is it sufficient to make your technique functional against an attacker in the real world!



Level 2: Partner Training with Low Resistance.

At this point you have a partner provide a body to practice on. The goal here is to execute the move properly, but it’s all about placement, not power.

You want to make sure that you match the movement you learned in isolation to the correct places on your partner’s body. He or she may provide light resistance, but it is not difficult to overcome.


Level 3: Partner Training with Higher Resistance.

At this point your partner stops obligingly falling over whenever you make contact and requires you to apply a bit of force to make him respond.

If you perform the move incorrectly, he won’t let you “win”.

(The downside of this method of training is that it does require an experienced training partner who makes things appropriately difficult: you don’t want things to be so easy that you always succeed, nor him to give so much resistance that success is almost impossible).

This type of training properly done allows you to begin to feel the difference between a properly executed move, and one in which you’ve missed something. You can then adjust to perfect your technique.



Level 4: Contested Situational Sparring with a Partner.

At this point you limit your arsenal to just one or two techniques, but you really are trying to execute your technique on your partner, and he is really trying to do the same thing to you.

You may be sparring where you and your partner can only use a low kick. Or you might be isolating one aspect of a clinch or a takedown. Or you might be stick-grappling but the action stops as soon as one person ends up weaponless.

The point is, you are training against live resistance, while you try to use the technique you’ve been training. There is some force involved here, so if you make a mistake your training partner will feel it and hopefully take advantage of it..

This stage is the line between real martial arts and imaginary martial skill. If you can’t pull off your moves against someone who is really trying to avoid them, then you are fooling yourself.



Level 5: Partner Sparring with Many Different Techniques.

At this point you integrate whatever technique you’ve been training through the previous four levels into a realistic combat situation.

If you were working a particular kick, you now have to use it in combinations against a training partner who can also punch, kick, elbow, and knee you. The individual technique now joins the range of all the possible things you can do, against someone who is doing his best to take you out or submit you. This is where you find out how effective your skills are, and where the holes are in your offense and defense.

If you take any technique you want to learn through these five levels, your odds of being able to execute it in a live situation – with all the unpredictability and adrenalin that involves – are much higher.